Our readers read mostly on a smartphone. This means we have to change the way we write email,
The evidence is right in front of your nose. You might be reading this on a smartphone, or look around you. You will see people reading on their phone while walking, eating, talking to others, at meetings, on their way to the car, in the car (unfortunately). This is typical of people who read your emails, if they do indeed read them.
I have not been trained to write clearly or edit what I write (the opposite is true). If this is true for you, then I recommend a good book that will help you write more clearly, and get to the point.
Josh Bernoff in his book “Writing Without Bullshit” cuts to the chase. He gives solid recommendations to support:
“The Iron Imperative” – respect the reader’s time as more valuable than your own.
- Write great headlines / titles
- Get to the point immediately if possible
- Give your recommendations or conclusions clearly
- State why you came to the conclusions
- Use numbers with proper context
- Write clearly, directly and be clear about who is speaking
- Cut jargon, passive voice, and fillers.
There is many more gems in the book including analyzing communications from companies and leaders in google.
My old logic professor Paschal O’Gorman in NUI Galway pointed out that sophistry and sophistication come from the same root, and to bear this in mind.
· Sophistry is beautiful and clever but false arguments (intended to deceive).
· Sophistication in modern times has common associations with elegance and taste.
For me, in writing, sophisticated language can be a warning sign – potentially hiding meaning, or excluding people from a conversation. (Listen to lawyers talk – does a lay person understand them?). Yes, there are good reasons for technical, legal or medical language, but for most emails or business communication, clarity and non-technical language is better.
If you and I want to write accessibly and respect our readers time. Simple beats sophisticated. In fact simple can lead to a conversation with a reader to clarify points, or cater for things you have left out. At least the reader has read your email.
Do you agree?
Thank you Josh, and Paschal, for the reminder to focus on essentials, and cut to the chase.
[originally published on linkedin]